Kerouac's racism, sexism and homophobia

Discussion in 'Beat and Hippie Books' started by The_Moroccan_Raccoon, May 23, 2008.

  1. BlueLightRain

    BlueLightRain Member

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    I feel like he was just writing in a characters perspective. Just because an author writes a thing a certain way, doesn't mean that he agrees.. maybe it's just an instance of Jack being able to get into another persons head. Perhaps it was meant to turn you, the reader off from such behavior.
     
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  2. TomDijon

    TomDijon Member

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    Has anyone read the newer uncensored version of on the road?
     
  3. snowtiggernd

    snowtiggernd Member

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    I have read on the road..I don't remember much of it but back in that period that was common, and it didnt mean that they were racist, sexist or homophobic. They just used wording that today we (our generations) see as being that way.
     
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  4. jamgrassphan

    jamgrassphan Get up offa that thing Lifetime Supporter

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    Kerouac was a GI Bill wannabe Jock who hurt his leg, couldn't play football anymore, lost his white Jock "status" and likely his Jock white "friends", met and started talking to Ginsberg and developed the ability to think for himself for the first time in his life.

    All the racist, sexist, homophobic crap that had been poured into him up until that time (just like any other white male at that time, or this time for that matter, but maybe a little less overtly) probably stayed with him to some extent until the day he died. I don't doubt that he wrestled with it and was conflicted constantly. I don't think anyone who is a racist, but has the ability to think for him/herself, could exist without constant inner conflict.

    I also don't think anyone could read On The Road or The Subterraneans and doubt that Kerouac felt a close human connection/longing for black culture and the Jazz musicians he admired. So with Kerouac we have by all accounts a man guilty of prejudice, but not bigotry, not willingly and deliberately devoted to that prejudice but guilty of it nonetheless, who simultaneously loves, draws GREAT inspiration and longs for the cultures, people and ideas that he has been conditioned, from birth, to separate himself from.

    You can (and justifiably) dismiss him, out of hand for being racist, sexist and homophobic - but that would still be an oversimplification. It's a mistake to idolize the beats - they'll never measure up to contemporary progressive thinking. But to dismiss them is also a mistake. They essentially gave birth to a badly needed counter culture and in 1950's America that was no small task.
     
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  5. monkeywisdom

    monkeywisdom Member

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    He wrote that stuff in the 50's. It was the norm. The institutions allowed for that then.
     
  6. My names Cory

    My names Cory Senior Member

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    I recently finished reading Kerouac's "On the Road". I really enjoyed the book! I really liked their constant need for travel and how descriptive Kerouac wrote about the experiences. It has a lot to do with "time" and the characters constant hiding from their self-identity. Idk..it just really appealed to me.

    I haven't read any of other Kerouac's books yet, but I did not really see any blatant racism in On the Road. There may have been some slight sexism, but it was more about finding women to have a good time with and accompany them on their travels.
     
  7. Emanresu

    Emanresu Member

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    I haven't read enough Kerouac to weigh in on his alleged racism, and sexism but I disagree that we should consider the time a person lived in when judging their character. Throughout history so many people have risen above the time they lived in. Some people might excuse people like Thomas Jefferson for not freeing his slaves, they might say 'well it was a different time', but I reject such excuses. People excuse Abraham Lincoln for wanting to colonize newly freed slaves. We could excuse that, or we could realize that people like Wendel Philips was at that time criticizing that position, and so people can rise above their times (meaning that those who don't are fit subjects for criticism).
     
  8. ColdTurkey

    ColdTurkey Member

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    "Several times I went to San Fran with my gun and when a queer approached me in a bar John I took out the gun and said, "Eh? Eh? What’s that you say?" He bolted. I’ve never understood why I did that; I knew queers all over the country. It was just the loneliness of San Francisco and the fact that I had a gun. I had to show it to someone".
     
  9. DharmaBum

    DharmaBum Old Guard

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    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that the word queer is an insult in the context it's used, when it's not. One of his closest literary friends, a homosexual himself, actually wrote a book with the title "Queer" It was just a fast and loose way to describe that particular sexual orientation at the time. Context matters. Accusing Kerouac of being homophobic is ridiculous, especially to anyone who has actually read the Original scroll of On The Road. His books were often edited to oblivion by his Publisher at the time, under pain of not being published without it.

    The only thing Kerouac is guilty of is being human. He poured out his soul, his contradictions, his failings, everything he could remember with his vast and prodigious memory, into his collective work. Someone above mentioned that Jack was just a bigoted Jock until he met Ginsberg, this is also a nonsense, even Ginsberg himself would have rubbished such a description of Jack. Ginsberg was immediately drawn to Jack, not just on a physical level, but he absolutely adored his thinking, his view of the world, they would share and explore literary influences, this is not the mind of a simple bigot. Did he carry such thoughts all through his life? Absolutely, as do most people, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, the unfamiliar and the unknown have always been thus.

    It's easy to bemoan the man and his work now that he's dead and buried, cherry picking quotes to suit your particular view of him or his work, but serious judgement of him or his work, without serious investigation into either, is a cop out, he's a tragic figure, who made a lot of mistakes and hurt plenty of people, but his work stands as a monument to an America he chased and held as sacred most of his life, he dragged himself through life as best he could, flawed and yearning, this makes his words all the more beautiful to me.

    There are plenty of sources and interviews with folks who knew him best, people mentioned and unmentioned in his various books. Do him the justice of seeking out their views of him before condemning the man and his work.
     
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  10. scratcho

    scratcho Lifetime Supporter Lifetime Supporter

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    I went through the 50s as a teenager and in my cute little sweaters and such, I thought they were crazy. It took a lot of guts to carry

    on as they did, coming out of the 40s-50s in which blacks were still being lynched, peoples behavior was very scrutinized for anything out

    of the ordinary---and I mean ALL the time and everywhere. If there is --and there IS--language that shows the timbre of the times and is

    not so acceptable now, that's the way it went. It's been so long since I read his stuff that I wouldn't mind trying some of it again.

    Hemingway used to piss me off with his blood lust, but I enjoyed reading him. Kerouac, et al, certainly conveyed their sense of restless

    wondering about the society, IMO. The hippies "godfathers", so to speak. I personally like(d) Richard Brautigan better than those others.
     
  11. tonydoe420

    tonydoe420 Banned

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    He wasn't without his demons. I think we tend to forget that. But also how do we no this makes him a racist bigot. And not a man expressing artistic freedom. And considering the time he was writing racism was part of people's life's.
     
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  12. More Full Life

    More Full Life Members

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    Because you're bisexual and Jewish, I can see why this would annoy you. I'm a feminist and yet I love the work of Charles Bukowski. Charles was a miserable old misogynist, but somehow his outdated, vile slurs and such don't stop me from enjoying his writings. I guess that maybe you've got to find it in your heart to be forgiving, so that you can see the book for it's good qualities. :daisy:
     
  13. PeatBog

    PeatBog Member

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    Kerouac is overrated due to the happenstance of history. He just happened to be at the right place doing the right thing at the right time. I know some people of his ilk in current times, and they aren't as special as they'd like to think. Just because you jump on some bandwagon doesn't erase your bigotry.
     
  14. More Full Life

    More Full Life Members

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    Hmmm... I've heard a lot of people say that he's overrated. You might be right to be honest, but I'm gonna read some more before I decide.
     
  15. Theusualinsect

    Theusualinsect Newbie

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    Can't say for sure on racism, but Kerouac was openly a bisexual. He writes about experiences having sexual intercourse with other men and how proud he was to have the experience. I think he was very open minded and of all literary elements. I'm not sure you can really judge him for language used, though not an excuse, he was poet, deeply observant and from another time. I highly doubt he was racist either. He wrote about all people in the same way. He wrote about sad, rich white people too, and how sad and disgusting they were in the way they behave. He was the great American observer. He wrote about piss stains in toilets and reflections in windows. He loved jazz and the amazing black culture. He wrote about it often. He wrote about everything. One of his best friends was Allen Ginsberg, who was gay and Jewish. Hello

    This thread is another example of political correctness (ignorance) gone sour.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  16. rasta g child

    rasta g child Banned

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    all i remember is the bad dream
     

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